In June 2013, a 10-year-old boy from San Diego died because of rat bite fever caused by a pet rat purchased from Petco. In February 2014, the boy’s family filed a lawsuit against Petco, seeking damages of $20 million. This week, the court decided in favor of Petco.
Deadly case of rat bite fever for a 10-year-old
After the rat bit him, Aidan Pankey started experiencing acute stomach pain. He was immediately transported to the nearest hospital, but the doctors could not save him. They established that the boy was infected with streptobacillus moniliformis. Thus, they determined that the cause of death was rat bite fever.
Rat bite fever represents the infection with this streptobacillus, which is transmitted via rodent bites. After an analysis of the boy’s pet rat, the doctors discovered that it was also infected with the streptobacillus.
Aidan’s grandmother, Sharon Pankey, was the one who bought the rat for her grandson. Despite the unpleasant decision of the jury, the woman declared that she was glad they could make people aware of the dangers of this disease.
The court did not find Petco responsible for the death of the boy
A more thorough investigation discovered that 50 percent of the rats sold by Petco were infected with the bacteria, without causing any other deadly cases in humans. However, the Pankey family lawyers argue that the retailer should warn its customers about the possible risks of contracting the disease.
On the other hand, the Petco lawyers disagree. They argue that the disease is rare, but treatable. Over the years, they have been selling around 5 million rats, and their customers reported only 45 cases of rat bite fever. Moreover, they cannot guarantee for every single rat that it is free of the disease.
Also, the Petco lawyers stated that the retailer warned their customers of the risk of getting infected. However, these risks are not presented verbally, when a person buys a pet rat. They are printed down and offered to the customers each time they purchase such a pet.
In fact, Petco customers might choose to test their rats for rat bite fever. This helps people avoid a lot of unpleasant situations, but Sharon Pankey was not aware of this test when she purchased the pet for her grandson.
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